Monday, August 31, 2009

faith and mercy

Luke 18, 2 Corinthians 2

Early last Wednesday morning, the oldest son of a couple in our church had a bad car accident and was ejected from the vehicle.  We went to the hospital last night, and I was amazed to see how the Body of Christ is ministering to them.  Their son was in a medically induced coma for several days, and today the doctors are beginning to try to "wake him up".  Mark made a powerful statement in the waiting room, "God's promise is that He will never leave us, not that He will give us our son back."  I was blown away by his realistic faith.  At the same time, they continue to ask the Lord to completely heal their son.  I was encouraged by reading the story of the persistent widow this morning.  The Lord is good, and He loves to give good gifts to His children.  He especially desires to give us the Kingdom.  I continue to pray that the Lord will work so powerfully in this young man's life to restore Him and use Him to advance the Kingdom.

I am also impressed with the simplicity of faith, repentance, and mercy:

L 18:13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, 'O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.' 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God.

Heavenly Father, you are so good and kind.  You are so patient and merciful.  Thank you for humbling me with the cross and leading me to faith in Christ.  Now Lord, will you continue to reveal yourself to me so that I can know you and love you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Lord, I want to bless you and obey you.  Please teach me to delight in you and walk in your ways so that others will know you and see how good you are.  Lord, teach me to deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow you.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

extended evangelistic Scripture list

Genesis 1:1-3:24
Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, 52:13-53:12
Matthew 1:18-24, 4:1-17
Mark 1:21-3:6
John 1:1-18, 3:16-17, 18:1-20:31
Romans 3:22-23, 5:6-8, 6:23, 8:5-8, 10:8-14
Galatians 3:22
Ephesians 2:8-9

lost and found - celebration

Luke 15, 1 Corinthians 15

The Pharisees and teachers of religious law were clueless!  The irony of them thinking they understood God is embarrassing.  They thought God despises people because of their sin.  No, God loves people, in spite of their sin.  And He loves people so much that He sent Jesus Christ to die on a cross to pay the penalty for sin, so that all who believe can reconnect with God forever.  I don't think I have given much thought to the celebration aspect that is reiterated in Luke 15: lost sheep, lost coin, lost son.  Upon finding, there is joy and celebration.  This communicates the heart of God.

L 15:6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.' 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away!

... 9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, 'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.' 10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God's angels when even one sinner repents."

... 22 "But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.' So the party began.

His love is so deep that He is willing to sacrifice His own Son, the Perfect and Spotless Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ.  It reminds me of a song by David Crowder that Brandi is especially fond of:

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.
And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don't have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…


Indeed, we will sing for all eternity in overwhelmed humility and awestruck gratitude for the price Jesus paid to redeem us.  And we will sing for all eternity, joyfully celebrating those who have been reunited with God.  We will feast with Him - the Year of Jubilee - forever.

Heavenly Father, your love is too much!  It is excessive that you would sacrifice your own Son.  How you must love us.  How you must rejoice upon those who by grace through faith, are returned to you.  May the Lord Jesus Christ be celebrated because He is victorious!  He has conquered sin and death, and He is happy for those who repent.  Lord, please help me take the message of Christ to the lost, and don't ever let me think like those Pharisees.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

speaking in tongues

Luke 14, 1 Corinthians 14

This is something I have wanted to study for some time, but I never got around to it.  Well, this morning I spent some time and actually studied this "speaking in tongues" business.  It seems like there are two types, which I base on the two different Greek words that are translated into English as "tongue" or "language".

διάλεκτος - (Strong's G1258) - "dialect"
 - It seems like an understandable language that people use to discuss ideas.  This word isn't used as much as the other word, and it appears only in Acts.

γλῶσσα - (Strong's G1100) - of uncertain affinity; the tongue; by implication a language (specifically one naturally unacquired)
- So it can mean the tongue (the actual body part inside your mouth), or a language.  In some cases it appears with a Greek word that means "another tongue", so perhaps that is an unidentifiable language.

My opinion on this topic has oscillated.  I grew up in a congregation where no one ever "spoke in tongues", and I was very skeptical of its validity.  Then I attended a church where someone "spoke in tongues" and then someone else "translated", and I believed that it was legitimate.  Then I moved to a different city and attended a congregation that never had anyone speak in tongues.  I saw some congregations on TV where people were "speaking in tongues", and I had several conversations with a guy at our church that was very skeptical of the validity of people that "spoke in tongues" because he grew up in a very charismatic congregation where he felt like everyone was faking it.  But now, after reading 1 Corinthians 14, studying the words a little bit, and talking to a Brother who knows Greek, it seems legitimate.  But Paul gives some very practical constraints on the exercising of the gift of tongues: there should be order, and there should be an interpreter (not necessarily someone other than the speaker).  Otherwise, it is not constructive for the Body of Christ.

Heavenly Father, please help me grow in understanding your Body and the gifts you have given.  Lord, please help me not show prejudice against something in your Body just because I am unfamiliar with it; that is so immature.  Please use me to grow the Body, and help us do everything in an orderly way so that you will be glorified.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

patient love

Luke 13, 1 Corinthians 13

The Lord is patient in His love and mercy, but when His justice comes, it comes swiftly and severely.

L 13:2 "Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?" Jesus asked. "Is that why they suffered? 3 Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. ... 6 Then Jesus told this story: "A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. 7 Finally, he said to his gardener, 'I've waited three years, and there hasn't been a single fig! Cut it down. It's just taking up space in the garden.'

 8 "The gardener answered, 'Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I'll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. 9 If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.'"

... 23 Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few be saved?"

   He replied, 24 "Work hard to enter the narrow door to God's Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. 25 When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Lord, open the door for us!' But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' 26 Then you will say, 'But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' 27 And he will reply, 'I tell you, I don't know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.'

 28 "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you will be thrown out. 29 And people will come from all over the world—from east and west, north and south—to take their places in the Kingdom of God.

How many of us "Christians" in the US are just taking up space in the garden?  The Lord wants fruit bearing trees!  Knowing about the Lord (v. 26) is not enough (v. 27).  We must worship and obey Him.  We must abide in the vine so that He will produce His fruit in us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your patient love and mercy.  Lord, please help me stay grateful and repentant.  Please fill me with your love, and pour your love through me into the lives of others, especially my wife.  Lord, please use me to lead others to know your love and mercy before it is too late.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

time is short

Luke 12, 1 Corinthians 12

This verse is especially encouraging to me this morning:

 L 12:32 "So don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. ... 34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

For some reason, it is so easy to slip into the routine of religion and forget what the main goal is.  I want to know Christ; I want to eat from the Tree of Life; I want to possess and share the Kingdom; I want to treasure the Lord!

So, what does a lifestyle in the pursuit of the Lord look like?

L 12:35 "Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. 37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! 38 He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready. ... 40 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected." ...42 ... "A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. ... 47 "And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn't prepared and doesn't carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

Maybe sometimes we overemphasize our friendship and Brotherhood with Christ to the point that we forget that He is the Holy Judge of the universe.  Time is short; shorter than ever.

Heavenly Father, please help me live a sober life of loving you and pursuing you.  Lord Jesus, please forgive me for wasting time and resources.  Please help me be a faithful servant, and please use me to help others live faithfully.  Oh Lord, may I be ready for your return!  You have given me so much; may I be faithful to place all things under your Lordship.  Holy Spirit, please help me be sensitive and obedient to you today.  Please produce your fruit in my life and pour yourself through me into others.  Thank you for grace and mercy.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, August 24, 2009

shine the Light!

Luke 11, 1 Corinthians 11

Yesterday, after teaching about the first seven deacons (Acts 6), I told Brandi about my frustration with our congregation's confusion on the roles of elders and deacons.  She challenged me to do something about it instead of complaining, so I sent a very nice email this morning, and I hope this will open up more dialogue on the subject.

After reading 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, I sent an email to our lead pastor asking if we could celebrate the Lord's Supper more frequently.  It seems like an important aspect of our corporate relationship with Christ.

I confess that I am a heretic and a hypocrite, but God is transforming me more and more into the image of Christ, and I realize that I can't wait until I'm perfect to start shining (because then I will be dead, and it will be too late to have any effect on earth).  So, you start now and ask for grace:

L 11:33 "No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. 34 "Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness. 35 Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. 36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light."

Today is Brandi's first day of school, and I am praying that she will shine the Light of Christ to the people that she comes in contact with.

Heavenly Father, fill me with your light.  Lord, please purify me and mold me more into the image of Christ.  Please mature me and draw me into a closer walk with you.  Please use me to build up our congregation and the whole Body of Christ.  I pray that I will reflect your glory and that people will desire to see you.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Luke 8, 1 Corinthians 8

I am impressed with how Christ's ministry practically never stopped.  He taught a bunch of parables, got in a boat to cross to the other side of the sea, but He had to calm the storm because His disciples didn't trust Him, and as soon as He arrived, there was a possessed-man that He healed by casting the demons into a herd of pigs.  If it was just a bunch of stuff done from self, then it would be irritating and futile; but if accomplishing the Will of the Father is food, then it is empowering and eternally profitable.

L 8:34 When the herdsmen saw it, they fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. 35 People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons. He was sitting at Jesus' feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 36 Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.

It is amazing to me how the devil polarizes people against Christ.  I guess the people of the region were afraid that Jesus was going to upset their financial profit and social order.  You better believe that Jesus will rock your world, because your world is jacked up, and He is the only one that can fix it.  It means giving up everything to follow Him (which is painful for us materialistic Americans), and it means trusting Him through the change (which is difficult for us risk-minimizing Americans). This man was possessed by many demons, and Jesus healed him; but the people in the region were possesed by materialism and fear, so they rejected Him.  Jesus is full of love, mercy, and righteousness, but materialism and fear cause spiritual blindness for so many people, especially in the US.  I am challenged by the parable of the seed and the soil (hard path, shallow-rocky soil, thorny-weedy soil, and good soil), because I am afraid that most "Christians" in the US (including myself) are in the third category - choked by worldliness and materialism and never maturing to produce fruit. 

I used to be proud to be an American, but recently my perspective has changed.  I am extremely grateful for the men and women that have served and sacrificed for the unmatched freedom and opportunity that we have in this country, but I am embarrassed and ashamed of our insolent culture that wastes that freedom and opportunity.  We have such a potential to do good, but we waste it on ourselves for no eternal benefit.

Heavenly Father, please have mercy on me and forgive me for my materialism and fear.  Father, please give me boldness to follow Christ and trust Him with every aspect of my life.  Dear Father, I want to be a good steward with the resources and opportunities that you have given me; please forgive me for my ridiculous wastefulness.  Holy Spirit, please produce your fruit in my life, and please give me a perspective of looking for opportunities for eternal profit.  May I invest wisely and store up treasures in Heaven.  You have blessed me so much; I pray that I will bless You and bless others.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

aspects of our relationship with Christ

Luke 7, 1 Corinthians 7

worship - This is (or at least, should be) the most fundamental characteristic of our interaction with the Lord.  It predates sin.  He (Father, Son, and Spirit) is the Creator, and we are the creation.  Our goal in this life is to grow to the point where we worship Him in every moment, with our entire selves (heart, mind, soul, and strength), through every action.  I think the woman that anointed Christ's feet was a beautiful picture of worship and love.

faith - Tragically, we can not worship the Lord until we have faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.  Sin separates us from Him, but He purchased our freedom.  I think the Roman officer gives a great example of faith; while we can not see Him, and we are not worthy to enter His presence, in faith we ask Him for Salvation.

ministry - By grace through faith, we have a restored relationship with Him, and then we can worship Him and love Him.  Consequently, the Lord uses us to lead others to repentance (e.g., John the Baptist), and He demonstrates His Character by healing people and saving them (e.g., Christ raising the boy from the dead).

Heavenly Father, thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection.  Lord, according to the faith you have given me, I trust Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and restoration.  Lord, I want to worship you and love you with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Please help me walk with you, and please use me to lead others to faith in Christ.  Holy Spirit, please anoint me with your power to be a witness for Christ and minister to people in their point of need.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

theology of the Cross

Luke 6, 1 Corinthians 6

The theology of the Cross is backwards from the world.  As I read Luke 6:20-38 and 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 this morning, I feel convicted that I do not have a generous heart.  I am too connected to material things in the fleshly life instead of eternal things in the spiritual life.

   L 6:24 "What sorrow awaits you who are rich,
      for you have your only happiness now.
   25 What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now,
      for a time of awful hunger awaits you.
   What sorrow awaits you who laugh now,
      for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.
   26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
      for their ancestors also praised false prophets. ...

Those verses sound a lot like church-attending "Christians" in the US to me, myself included.  The frequency of lawsuits in the US is an indicator of the level of materialism in our society.

1 Cor 6:7 Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers.  9 Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

L 6:30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don't try to get them back. ...
35 "Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

Heavenly Father, thank you for convicting me of materialism.  Now, Lord, please deliver me from it.  Heavenly Father, make me as generous as you, who gave up your only Son.  Lord Jesus, make me as generous as you, who gave up your life on the Cross.  Holy Spirit, please grow my spirit and set my mind on the spirit instead of the flesh.  Lord, I want to be empty of me so that I can be filled with you.  May I be poor in spirit so that I may be rich in Christ.  I ask in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

devotion to holiness

Luke 5, 1 Corinthians 5

I thought this was an interesting contrast between the crowds of Capernaum and Simon Peter:

L 4:42 Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them.

L 5:8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, "Oh, Lord, please leave me—I'm too much of a sinner to be around you."

I think the contrast is with the aspect of Christ revealed: with the crowds - gracious teacher and merciful healer; with Peter - Holy Deity.

I am especially challenged by the repeated notes of Christ's personal prayer time with the Father.  I need to better emulate His model. 

L 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

What do you think He prayed?

The other thing that got me this morning was Paul's charge for internal Church discipline.

1 Cor 5:9 When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10 But I wasn't talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don't even eat with such people. 12 It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. 13 God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, "You must remove the evil person from among you."

Our culture screams relativism and tolerance, and I think these have infiltrated the Church.  "You can't tell me what is right or wrong.  You can't tell me what to do."  Actually, the Lord has called us to be Holy as He is Holy, and He has called us to bear the fruit of the Spirit.  This requires His precise pruning (John 15:1-6) as well as internal auditing.  As Paul explains, we are certainly not judging unbelievers, but in humility and love (and with Matthew 7:1-5 in mind), we should hold each other accountable to Costly Grace.  To be honest, I don't think our congregation does this very well, if at all, and I don't know how one would go about it.  But now that the Lord has called it to my attention, I pray that He gives me grace if He gives me an opportunity for application.

Heavenly Father, you are merciful and kind for sending Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  Jesus, thank you for revealing the Holiness of God.  Holy Spirit, thank you for empowering me and sanctifying me and the Church to the image of Christ.  Please reveal yourself more to me, and may I be awestruck by your supremacy.  Lord God, teach me to pray like Christ.  I want to be a disciple of you.  Lord, please purify me and make me holy, and please use me to help others to grow in holiness.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Righteousness.  Amen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

dynamic filling and power of the Holy Spirit

Luke 4, 1 Corinthians 4

I believe that when a person places his/her faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit immediately makes eternal (static) residence in that individual.  But I also believe that it is necessary for a Believer to be continuously (dynamically) filled with the Holy Spirit to be empowered to be obedient and produce fruit.

L 4:1 Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. ... 14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit's power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. ...
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
      for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
      that the blind will see,
   that the oppressed will be set free,
      19 and that the time of the Lord's favor has come."
... 36 Amazed, the people exclaimed, "What authority and power this man's words possess! Even evil spirits obey him, and they flee at his command!"

Indeed, the Apostle Paul summarizes:

1 Cor 4:20 For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God's power.

Unfortunately, here in the US, I think most people think Christianity is a bunch of talk, because most Believers are not living by God's power.  We concede ourselves to calculated rhetoric and warm-fuzzy music.  If we were continually filled with the Holy Spirit and conduits of His power, then there would be plenty of proof of the Lord's miraculous goodness.

1 Cor 2:1 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn't use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God's secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.

Heavenly Father, please examine me and show me what is holding you back from using me.  Lord, I want to be totally devoted to you.  I want to be continually filled with your Holy Spirit and constantly walking in the authority of Christ.  Lord, I realize that this will necessarily involve conflict with the enemy, but Lord, you are mighty to save!  You have already won the victory, but please empower me to be an Overcomer with you!  Please give me boldness to walk by faith!  Dear Holy Spirit, please teach me to walk with you, and please help me be faithful to give all the glory to you as you produce good fruit in my life.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior.  Amen.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Mark 16, Romans 16

Where do we find Christ?  In the community of His disciples:

M 16:5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, 6 but the angel said, "Don't be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn't here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. 7 Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died."

In fact, our whole experience of Christ is through the community of Believers, as demonstrated by Paul listing so many close Brothers and Sisters in Romans 16.  I believe that the following statement is not so much to individuals as they are spoken to the collective Body of Christ:

R 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Brandi and I are hanging out with our families this weekend, and on the drive up last night, Brandi mentioned that she is so thankful and amazed at the Lord's sovereignty in choosing our parents and brothers and sisters.  May the Lord use them to grow me in Christ, and may He use me to grow them in Christ.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sovereignly making me the person that I am with the family and friends that you have chosen for me.  Lord, please help me be sensitive to how you are using experiences with family, friends, and strangers to mold me into the image of Christ.  Dear Father, please use me to grow the Body of Christ.  Help me see how I can impact the Believers that I am connected to.  Holy Spirit, please continue to reveal to me the gifts that you have given me to be used for building up the Body.  Lord, please use me for your glory and honor.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

according to the Holy Spirit

Mark 15, Romans 15

As I was reading about all of the torture and suffering that Jesus endured before and during His crucifixion, it occurred to me that He had only a few hours before prayed that God would give Him a way out.  But Jesus ultimately committed Himself to spiritual obedience and submitted His life to the will of the Father.  It was that spiritual time in prayer with the Father in the garden that prepared Him for sanctification to the Father's will, which empowered Him to stay on the cross as the people mocked Him to come down.  This is a great challenge to me to be faithful in prayer and sincerely seek the Father's will.

I have recently been noticing the significance of the Holy Spirit - in the Scriptures and in my own experience.  I see that I need to grow in knowing and experiencing God in Three Persons: sonship of the Father; brotherhood of Christ; spirithood of the Holy Spirit; and servant of Him/Them.  Not three separate relationships, but communion with God the Trinity.

R 15:13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ... 15... because of the grace given me by God 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.

Heavenly Father, you are so amazing.  I cannot understand you, but by your grace you continue to reveal yourself to me.  Lord God, I want to know you as Father, Son, and Spirit.  I want to worship you, love you, and serve you.  Dear Father, thank you for your love you showed by sacrificing your only Son so that I may be adopted into your Heavenly Family.  Jesus Christ, thank you for the love you showed through the pain you endured.  Thank you for the model of holy devotion to our Father.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your love that you are with me and in me and through me - working to bring me closer to you and glorify the Father, Son, and Spirit.  Lord, please teach me to walk with you closer today.  Let me hear your voice, and teach me to obey you in love.  Please fill me with joy, peace, and hope.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Life in the Spirit

Mark 14, Romans 14

The life in Christ is fundamentally spiritual.  It is a life of spiritual devotion to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

M 14:38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

R 14:9For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. ... 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. ... 23... For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Heavenly Father, help me walk by faith in Jesus Christ today, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that the Kingdom of God may advance.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

watching for His return

Mark 13, Romans 13

Yesterday morning I taught Bible study for a 50+ class in our church.  As I prepared to teach this class, the Lord worked in my heart to remind me that it is only the work of the Holy Spirit to produce a spiritual profit from my teaching.  In my flesh, I can only hurt; but by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit working through me, He can use me to sanctify the Body of Christ.

I have recently been reminded to live in eager anticipation of Christ's return, so these two passages are very encouraging this morning:

M 13:34 "The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. 35 You, too, must keep watch! For you don't know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. 36 Don't let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. 37 I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!"

R 13:9 ... "Love your neighbor as yourself." ... 11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don't participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don't let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

So, "watching for Christ" has the practical implication of loving others.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and mercy through Jesus Christ, and thank you for the promise of His return.  Lord, please help me live a holy lifestyle of purity and love so that others will see my expectation of Christ's return.  Lord, please help me show love to my wife, family, friends, and strangers, and may you receive all of the praise.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, August 7, 2009

our only hope

Mark 10, Romans 10

As I read the account of the blind beggar (Bartimaeus), I tried to empathize his experience.  I don't know how old he was or how long he had been begging, but I'm sure he had come to terms with the permanence of his situation.  But one day, I am sure that he overheard people talking about Jesus and his miracles.  I try to imagine how he would have felt - a sudden pang of hope, but at the same time, a deep grief for his inability to go to Jesus and be healed.  So it is not hard for me to imagine the intensity of his cry to the Lord:

M 10:47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"  48 "Be quiet!" many of the people yelled at him.   But he only shouted louder, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

He was probably screaming so hard that he was spitting.  His face was red with ferver that cannot be manufactured; it is a gut-level response to the realization that Jesus Christ is your only hope.

And when Jesus called him over, he pushed away anything between them:

49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, "Tell him to come here."   So they called the blind man. "Cheer up," they said. "Come on, he's calling you!" 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Heavenly Father, by faith I come to you through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Lord God Almighty, I want to see you.  As you opened Bartimaeus's eyes to see physically, will you open my spiritual eyes to see you.  I want to know you and commune with you.  Lord, I want to be in harmony with your will - cooperating with you as you accomplish your good plan.  Lord, I need you, and I love you.  Please have mercy on me and heal me.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, because He is my only hope.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Deity of Christ

Mark 9, Romans 9

I had a conversation with Herb on the bus today about the Deity of Christ.  He asked me a good question, "What is the theological consequence of Jesus being only human?"  I need to chew on that one for a while.  I looked up several passages that confirm the Deity of Christ, but those don't really answer his question.

"Coincidentally," here some verses from my reading this morning that point to Christ's identity:

M 9:1Jesus went on to say, "I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!" 2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus' appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them.

R 9:5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.

Heavenly Father, I certainly don't understand how you can be distinct persons within the Godhead and at the same time be perfectly unified, but I trust that you are, and I praise you because you are so amazing!  Lord Jesus, I praise you and worship you because you are God, and I thank you because you died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin.  Holy Spirit, I praise you for raising Christ from the dead, and I thank you for filling me with your resurrection power.  Lord, please help me live in you and experience your awesome person.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

death to self

Mark 8, Romans 8

M 8:33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. "Get away from me, Satan!" he said. "You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's." 34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

After the fall, the default human point of view is perverted and fleshly.  It is, in fact, necessary to kill this fleshly perspective and be resurrected by the Holy Spirit into a regenerated mind:

R 8:5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God's laws, and it never will. 8 That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.  9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.  12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Heavenly Father, please teach me to kill the flesh and set my mind on the Spirit.  Lord, please fill me with your life and peace, and lead me in the way of enjoying sonship with you.  Holy Spirit, please illuminate my mind and expose the perverted aspects of my thinking so that I can experience the mind of Christ.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

living in the Spirit

Mark 7, Romans 7

There was nothing about Christ's political or social status that enabled His ministry.  Jesus demonstrated His spiritual authority in the natural and spiritual realms:

M 7:37 They were completely amazed and said again and again, "Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak."

I think living in the flesh is like eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and living in the Spirit is like eating from the Tree of Life:

R 7:5 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the example of Jesus Christ - the perfect spiritual man, living in obedience with your will.  Father, please empower me by your Holy Spirit to exercise your authority as I cooperate with you.  May your goodness and love flow through me into the lives of people around me.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, August 3, 2009

slaves of righteousness

Mark 6, Romans 6

I think the American culture is very similar to the people in Nazareth:

M 6:3 Then they scoffed, "He's just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us." They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. ... 5 And because of their unbelief, he couldn't do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

and I think I am very similar to the Twelve Disciples after Jesus fed the 5000, walked on water, and calmed the storm:

51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn't understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.

As I consider my purpose, I find such a clear mission statement in Romans 6:

17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. 19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.

It is a conscious act of the spirit and will to be a slave to righteousness.  Sin is a deceptive and cruel slave-master and will trick you into slavery and isolation quicker than quick.  But, Righteousness is an honest and loving slave-master, and (with respect to sanctification) He only takes volunteers.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ and his perfect Righteousness.  Lord, please forgive me for an unbelieving and hard heart.  Please soften my heart and give me faith.  Lord, may I be a loyal and dedicated slave to Righteousness because you are such a kind Master.  Holy Spirit, please teach me to walk with you today, for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and so that others may know His tender love.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Righteousness Himself.  Amen.